Mr Sonny Vu is the Founder of Misfit Wearables, makers of highly wearable computing products. The Columnist speaks to him about the Shine device, an all-metal activity tracker that you can sync with your smartphone, and on the role of data integration in the healthcare and wellness industry.
The Columnist (TC): How did you start out on this wellness device journey and what was the roadmap for your company then?
Sonny Vu (SV): My last company was called AgriMatrix. We made blood glucose meters and test strips for diabetics for about a decade. During that time we worked very closely with the consumer medical device space. Among one of the products we were well known for was the IBG Star, which is a blood glucose meter that works with the iphone. It’s the world’s first medical device that works with the iphone. We learned a lot about consumer behaviour and one of them is how wearable technologies improved people’s lives and how people used them. We also believe that wearable technology is going to be very popular in the next 10 to 15 years.
TC: Do you think Asian customers will be adverse to the idea of tracking devices?
SV: No, I don’t think so. I think it has a universal appeal. We do have interest in Asia, some of our partners are actually Asian. In fact, we have a strategic partnership with BBDI, the second largest carrier in Japan, as well as other major relationships that are coming through in the area. The design is universally appealing. It could be appealing to people from all age groups, men and women, every culture. It is of course, designed to be incredibly beautiful, wearable, and also incredibly useful. It does one thing really well and that is to chart your diabetes, it tells you how well you’re doing.
TC: So you mean the Shine device is meant for everyone in the world, not only the US?
SV: Yes, most of the people who buy it are not in the US.
TC: Can you share a bit more about your plans for the Southeast Asian market?
SV: We’re sold out now in Singapore, but we don’t have major plans in Southeast Asia. We don’t think there’s much of a market in Southeast Asia. I know it sounds crazy but I think people in Southeast Asia are focused on putting food on their plates and trying to get higher levels of education.
Of course, there are probably wealthy segments that might be interested in what we’re doing. Markets like Singapore and Thailand – there is some interest there. Our focus really is on East Asia, Europe, and the US. Those are the regions where we’ve seen a massive base of users.
TC: What was your vision for Shine when you designed it?
SV: Well, Shine was designed for one thing, and to do that one thing really well – Accurate monitoring. It was designed to do that better than anyone else, more beautifully than anyone else. We wanted something that people could wear, even if they weren’t using it. I mean if you were to think about it now, a lot of the products are plastic and rubber – when was the last time you went out and bought a plastic necklace? Or a rubber watch? That’s not desirable. Like Chopard, they will never make a rubber watch, or at least, not that I know of. So that’s why we wanted to make something out of metal and leather. Out of material that is comfortable to wear.
TC: So since the launch of the device, how has the response and usage been so far?
SV: It’s been pretty amazing actually, we’ve seen people wear it and not take it off for months at a time. I think one of the good thing is that you don’t ever have to charge the product. So there is very little barriers to wearing it. I think that’s one of the reasons why people stop wearing these things – you have to take it off and charge it, and often the charger is proprietary and so people stop charging it or even lose their charger! I think if we do the hard work and eliminate its failures by removing the need to charge it, people would love it more.
TC: How do you think data integration can help save costs in the healthcare industry?
SV: Well, I think data collection can definitely help, using devices that track movement would be a good place to start.
TC: Do you have some ideas that you think can help to improve healthcare in Vietnam?
SV: There are a lot of health problems you can avoid just by a little bit more active, you know, and the goal of our device is really to inspire you to be more active. Also, on top of that, just eating better, is important for having a longer, healthier life.
TC: Just now you shared a little bit about products that did not need to be charged. Can you share a little bit about your next product?
SV: One of the things we’re working on and focusing on is wearability. So we have another product next year that will measure even more things – which is completely different from Shine – and it will actually work well when you use both products together. It will stick to the promise of all of our products – and that is to be affordable and wearable. The other thing, at least up until now, is that it will not require charging and hopefully it would be a product that you would want to wear even if your batteries are dead.
TC: How do you think your company fits into the healthcare system?
SV: Well, Shine is a wellness product, it’s not a healthcare device. It’s not a medical device. It does not have any medical claims, so it’s not really intended to be used in hospitals even though I’m sure there are a bunch of great uses for it. This is intended to be used in everyday life – it’s meant to people who just want to live better, to be a little healthier, to be more active, that kind of thing.
This interview was conducted for The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs. The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Consulus.